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November 13, 2003

Big Brother Notes

Two interesting notes on government: one local and one international.

First, I can't believe that with the international pressure and criticism at home, the US is still calling their crackdown in Baghdad "Operation Iron Fist". Sounds an awful lot like a police state, but I guess that's what Iraq is right now. Perhaps I overestimate American dissent at home, as well.

Second, last Sunday morning, on the way home from church, the Halifax Metro police had all south-bound traffic on Barrington North stopped to check licence, registration, inspection and insurance. I'm fine on all counts, of course, but it still seemed vaguely invasive...

September 01, 2003

A Society without Work

It was only a couple of days ago that I was thinking about why we haven't seen the reduced work week that a few decades ago was widely anticipated. What will happen when we do get the technology to eliminate most work? Who will own that technology, and how will the average person have their basic needs met?

I don't see an inevitable path from here to an everybody-is-on-permanent-vacation rosy future. More likely, the people who own the companies and the capital now will own the technology to grow food, make shelter and provide services in the future. And they'll still want to charge money for its use.

It's coincidental then, that just yesterday Slashdot ran a story about some essays by Marshall Brain on what might happen when robots replace the millions of minimum wage jobs in the service industry (think MacDonald's and WalMart employees).

Continue reading "A Society without Work" »

March 25, 2003

Propaganda or Persuasion?

I guess it is natural to notice items that support your point of view, rather than oppose it. In the last few days I've seen a lot more interesting articles on the America-Iraq war. First off, Bush should take a lesson from Tony Blair, as evidenced by Blair's speech to the British parliment in support of a government motion to go to war with the Americans. Second, here is an article by an American who went to Baghdad as a human sheild, and then changed his mind.

March 18, 2003

One last word on Iraq

My blog isn't a political commentary, so this is hopefully the last thing I'll post about the US and Iraq situation. This article really resonated with me and it seems to be quite insightful. Both GWB as well as the peace advocates have left their opponents (Saddam and GWB, respectively) no exit strategy.

March 12, 2003

Not that I'm siding with GWB, or anything...

I usually am skeptical of the looming war in Iraq, mainly because I'm skeptical about the motivations and integrity of the current US administration. However, it is interesting be reminded that Saddam really is a bad guy, as this Wall Street Journal Opinion piece reminded me...

Of course, there's also plenty out there on the web to say that the claim of Saddam using gas on the Kurds in northern Iraq in the late eighties is a distortion of the truth. Not to mention that the US provided Iraq with satellite intelligence and other aid during that time while Iraq was at war with Iran. To keep the fundamental Islamic government of Iran from spreading the religious fervour to the entire region and possibly destabilizing the oil-producing countries that the US is so dependent upon, the US quite deliberately helped Saddam. Which just feeds into my opening statement about questionable motives and integrity...

February 25, 2003

Pax Americanus?

From mpt's blog: an interesting opinion from EFF co-founder John Barlow, speculating about the motivations of Dick Cheney, man-behind-the-throne in the GW Bush administration.

February 24, 2003

More web scrapings

In this edition: spam, a sound blog sort-of, and maps and history of conflict in the middle east.

Continue reading "More web scrapings" »

February 19, 2003

Land of the Free, Home of the Brave?

Arrested for working on a school project? Frightening.

January 08, 2003

Conspiracy Theories, Anyone?

The Enron-Cheney-Taliban Connection - I always like to see alternate viewpoints. Not like I needed much more reason to dislike the current US Administration.

December 12, 2002

Quote of the Day

From a post on kuro5hin (pronouced corrosion):

no, freedom of speech is not the root of terrorism. yes, maybe a terrorist could use such tricks to disguise his ways, but that's not the point. the point is that terrorism evolves from economic and social problems, which must be solved before it can end.
Amen.

November 19, 2002

Heard of the Content Cartel?

Until I write some more of my own rantings on the issue of Digital Rights Management and so on, I'll keep linking to others who have already done so. I'm a pretty poor activist, but if you have any concern at all for your freedom to enjoy our common cultural heritage, then take a few minutes and read about The Evil That is the DMCA, written by a very well-known Mac columnist.

Read "cultural heritage" as "ability to do what you want with music or movies, that you have legally purchased". The Content Cartel would like every entertainment experience you have to be provided by them, for a fee. Yes, pay-per-view everything. No lending friends the music of a small indie band, or copying an old out of print CD that you can't find at any stores. Sounds all tinfoil-hat-ish and paranoid, but its not as far fetched as you think...

Irony

Spotted this from Chris Nelson's weblog who in turn fount it on Eschaton (which I don't read regularly). Richard Perle is an advisor to the Bush administration. In a recent interview he said

The lesson of history is that democracies don't initiate wars of aggression, and if we want to live in a peaceful world, then there's very little we can do to bring that about more effective than promoting a democracy. People who live in democratic societies don't like to pay for massive military machines. Democratic societies don't empower their executives to make unilateral decisions to plunge countries into war. Wars have been started by tyrants who have complete control and who can squander the resources of their people to build up military machines.
Of course he is talking about countries besides the US, but what is amazing is that he doesn't realize how much his description is reminiscent of the United States.

November 14, 2002

here's another entry for the soapbox

One of these days I'll get the soapbox up to date, but for now, I'll just toss this in here in the general weblog:

The EFF is encouraging US citizens to support the DMCRA. This bill is introduced in Congress to modify some of the more odious aspects of the DMCA. I don't have time right now to write down why it's bad, and it is disappointing that the average person seems to not know or care much about fair use rights. Sometime soon I'll write a (or finish one of my already half-written) small soapbox entries.

If you're somewhat interested and have a few minutes to read, the EFF has several DMCA-related documents on their website, including this white papar summarizing the actual negative effects of the DMCA in its first three years.

November 09, 2002

Kudos to Tom Petty

My familiarity with mainstream musicians is pretty poor, so I don't know much about Tom Petty, and I wouldn't have cared before I read this piece in Rolling Stone which I came across at mpt's blog. I don't know if I can think of anything to disagree with, and it sure is refreshing to hear of somebody in the music business who sees things for what they are. My respect for Tom Petty just went way up.

Also from mpt, The list of ten reasons ease of use doesn't happen on engineering projects. Interesting reading for those interested in good engineering design in general, not just software UI usability.

November 01, 2002

International Election Observers needed...

... in America

I think this article speaks for itself.

September 10, 2002

The year in retrospective

Chris Nelson has an interesting perspective today on America's withdrawl from the rest of the world since 2001-09-11. I have to say that I don't think it could be said much better. In fact, if somebody else had said it, it wouldn't have had the same potence as it does coming from an American.

August 26, 2002

Remember those anti-drug ads about supporting terrorists

Well, here is something along the same lines, but a little more accurate and thought provoking. I found this through kottke.org and I kind of agree that it would be very amusing to see thousands of those stickers appearing on gas pumps around the US. I guess around Canada would be ok, too. Mind you, I'm not advocating any law-breaking here.

August 23, 2002

Soapbox item for the day

The real reason that the music business is tanking is not Napster, Gnutella and the 'mp3 revolution'. Instead of finding scapegoats and lobbying for legislation to protect their business models, the RIAA and the major labels need to take a good hard look at their own product and how they've lost touch with their audience.

August 14, 2002

More soapbox fodder

Two articles questioning American corporate accounting practices, and Microsoft in particular.

August 13, 2002

Think about it

It's about time that somebody intervened in the rogue states around the world to return them to peace-loving members of the international community.

Also, free_culture is another link that belongs in the soapbox section, really.

August 10, 2002

Software choice?

MS 'Software Choice' scheme a clever fraud is a good article by Bruce Perens, the well-known open source evangelist at HP-Compaq. I just wanted to help give the story wider exposure.

Yeah, I should really start a blog in my soapbox section.

August 05, 2002

Convicted Criminal Makes Amends

A convicted child molester awaiting final sentencing has voluntarily stopped giving cherry flavor lollypops to children. He continues to insist that prison time and losing his job as school teacher are unacceptable.

He further argues that it would be inappropriate for the sentence to place any restriction on his freedom to use candybars to lure children. While he admits he has used candybars in this manner, the district attorney got his conviction based on solely on cases where he used cherry lollypops. Candybar evidence was never presented in court due to budgetary constraints the complexity of the numerous brands and flavors of candybars involved.

(Taken from a slashdot comment)

In Other News...

Several news articles today report that Microsoft is planning to voluntarily implement some of the terms of the proposed settlement of the anti-trust lawsuit with the US Dept of Justice. Observers feel that this indicates Microsoft is really, truly a wholesome and honest company, and everybody should cut them some slack.

August 02, 2002

Definition of free software Attempt

Attempt at a simple (albeit incomplete) characterization of free software, for non-technical readers.

Free software must have source code that is available to you with more rights to use it than you would ordinarily get under copyright law. Source code that you can only access by accepting restrictions equal to or less that that allowed by copyright is not free. Software to which you cannot gain access to the source code is not free.

This doesn't describe what really defines free software. This is a neccessary but not sufficient definition. In other words, free software must meet this definition, and more besides. There is probably some software that meets this definition, but is not free. I guess it is possible to give away source code with more rights of use that ordinary copyright but still not reach the threshold to be truly free software. Hopefully the above is still a useful distinction.

This thought was stimulated by a slashdot article and discussion about software licensing.

Bounty Hunters may not be a good idea

If you read my last post, you'll know what I'm referring to. An obvious flaw of the approach of offering a bounty for Saddam Hussein is that it may simply cause him to be replaced by an equally undesirable person or group who would have the additional benefit of a cash windfall from the bounty on Sadam. I don't know what chance a military intervention has in establishing a desirable government in a foreign country, but a bounty on the undesired leader seems like a gamble at best.

You've heard the US is thinking of another war in Iraq, right?

I won't support that assertion since there are plenty of news articles and weblogs out there with all of the evidence. I'll just post this interesting example of good thinking: Do the Math! Let Free Enterprise Rid Us of Saddam. I haven't thought about the ethical considerations of such a proposal, nor do I necessarily agree with it, but I certainly feel that it merits equal consideration with the prospect of the US initiating another war in the middle east.

August 01, 2002

Sigh, more copyright badness

the case for copyleft - go EFF! Down DMCA! Down SBCEA! Don't know what I'm talking about? You should, especially if you're somebody to whom copyright is important, like an academic researcher, musician, author, librarian or just a music fan. Sure, those are American laws, but that stuff trickles down to Canada, too.

July 31, 2002

Literature 101

If you're an American (or just mildly interested in world events), read this. Really, I mean it.

July 19, 2002

Civil Liberties

The FAQ about John Gilmore's lawsuit challenging ID requirements for air travel raises quite a few interesting points about freedoms in the US and in general. I have to say that I strongly agree with him.

July 18, 2002

Digital Rights Management

I have a hard time explaining what DRM is and why it can potentially be a bad thing for me as a citizen and the public as a whole. I don't mind giving authors some legal authority over how their ideas and creations are distributed, in return for giving them an incentive to create new artistic artifact. What I object to is large corporations and monopolistic industry organizations lobbying to enlarge their private profits at the expense of my freedom to do what I choose with books, music and videos that I purchase or create myself.

I'm going to write a little bit on DRM and also copyright law for my (long-neglected) soapbox section soon, to air my opinions. In the meantime, my irritation about this subject was renewed by some articles I read on the web, and I want to give those articles front page coverage here:

June 27, 2002

DRM scariness

No time to elaborate, but slashdot posted a story linking to this interesting FAQ about TPCA and Palladium. Me no like.

June 19, 2002

Is the US a free country?

Mike Shaver posted a few interesting tidbits this morning. Some students at Ohio State University were apparently threatened with arrest and expulsion if they didn't face President Bush and cheer as he gave their commencement address. It seems some students don't like Bush's leadership record and had planned a protest in which they would face away from him during the graduation ceremony. Several students went through with it and reportedly nobody was arrested, but one member of the audience was taken from the stadium along with their 3 year old child.

Yeah, sure, it just a bunch of posts on the web, but these days that seems about as reliable as most mainstream media outlets.

June 14, 2002

Free as in Freedom

mpt, one of the more-or-less well-known contributors to the mozilla project, mentioned this fascinating view of Richard Stallman in his weblog today. It is the epilogue of a recent biography of Stallman, written in the first person describing his experience in writing the book and getting to know RMS.